Blog: Kids Lit Picks

kids picks

The One and Only Ivan

by Katherine Applegate

Ages: 9 – 12 years (approximately grades 3 – 7)

Ivan is based on a real great silverback gorilla. He lives at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He spends his days trying to understand humans and their constant use of words, watching television shows with his dog friend, Bob, talking to his elephant friend, Stella, and drawing with his human friend, Julia. He has food to eat and his domain to sleep in. He is content.

Or is he? When a new animal, Ruby, a baby elephant, comes to the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, everything Ivan thinks he knows is thrown upside down. Hearing about Ruby’s former life with her family before being captured to perform tricks at a cruel road circus reminds Ivan of his own life in the jungle with his family. Reminiscing about the simpler, freer times in the wild, Ivan finally understands how truly trapped he and his friends are. He promises Stella, upon her untimely passing, that he will take care of Ruby and decides that if they are doomed to live a life out of the wild, away from their families, Ivan is convinced it should not be under the Big Top, but in the best place for animals in human captivity: the zoo.

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Gaston

by Kelly DiPucchio

Ages: 0 – 6 years (approximately grades preschool – K)

Gaston lives with his three siblings, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La with their mother, Mrs. Poodle. As Mrs. Poodle’s puppies grow, they learn all the nuances of being as polite and poodle-like as possible. Gaston, though he tries, never manages to quite fit the mold. As hard as he practiced his manners, he still slobbers when he should sip, he “RUFF”s when he should “Yip!” Despite Mrs. Poodle was very pleased with all of her puppies all the same. On their first public stroll in the park, Mrs. Poodle and her pups come upon Mrs. Bulldog and her children, Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette. Seeing that there has been a horrible mix up (Gaston is a bulldog and Antoinette is a poodle!), the mothers let Gaston and Antoinette decide to trade places so they will fit in better with their new families. As you may have guessed, it seems another terrible mistake was made because “that looked right, it just didn’t feel right.” Upon their final switch, Gaston and Mrs. Poodle, as well as Antoinette and Mrs. Bulldog agree to meet regularly and teach each other their own specialties.

With playful illustrations reminiscent of simple marker or finger paint, Gaston is a bold story about standing out, fitting in, and being yourself. In the end, as Gaston and Antoinette have a family of their very own, the takeaway message is to be yourself, and let your children do the same, because those who matter most will love you anyway. Such a sweet message is not overdone, and the mixed poodle-and-bulldog pups (complete with brown splotched coats and pompadour poofs) articulate it to the non-readers perfectly. Gaston will be a hit for those who love puppies (French Bulldogs and Poodles in particular), those with an independent streak, and those who enjoyed A Ball for Daisy or the illustrations of Jon Klassen.

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Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

By: Chris Grabenstein

Ages: 8+ (approximately grades 3 and up)

The twelve-year-olds in Alexandriaville, Ohio have lived without a public library their entire lives. This all changes when a mysterious and generous benefactor constructs a brand new, state-of-the-art library in town. To celebrate the library’s grand opening, a contest is held that will allow 12 lucky winners to spend one night in the library. It’s revealed that successful and eccentric game maker Luigi Lemoncello is the genius behind the library and the kids can’t wait to see what’s in store. After a fun night of exploring the library, Kyle Keeley and the 11 other contest winners are stunned to find out that their adventure has just begun. Just like one of Mr. Lemoncello’s famous games, each kid must race to find their way out of the library by finding clues and solving zany puzzles. It will take wit, patience and maybe even teamwork to escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s library and claim the life-changing prize.

With equal parts mystery, adventure and humor this fast-paced book is a very fun read. It’s a contemporary version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that highlights characters who are multicultural, relatable and realistic (even smarmy villain Charles Chiltington). Readers will enjoy discovering clues and solving the puzzles along with the characters. There are also plenty of references to literary works that avid readers will get a kick out of spotting. Fans of mysteries, puzzles, libraries and the books The Puzzling World of Winston Breen and The Mysterious Benedict Society should definitely check this one out! Recommended for grades 3 and up.

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Exclamation Mark

by: Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

Ages: 0 - 9 years (approximately grades preschool – 3)

A special little punctuation isn’t sure where he fits in. In fact, he always finds himself standing out, even when he tries so desperately to fit in. Even when he scrunches and squishes himself down, he never quite feels like part of the group… period. One day, he meets a very interrogative fellow who won’t leave even a moment of silence with all of his questions. Fed up, our punctual hero cries “STOP!” unleashing the very thing he knows he was born to do: stand out! After showing his friends his newfound talent for exclaiming, he goes off to make his mark on the world…

This very fun story explores punctuation in a way that is accessible for all ages. Younger readers will have their first meeting with the different forms of punctuation in a very personable way, while older readers will revel in the oh-so-clever puns and double entendres while the various forms of punctuation interact with each other. Overall, this book is simply about a lost soul finally finding himself, a message that we can all relate to and revel in its importance. Exclamation Mark will enthrall readers who enjoyed Little Red Writing and 123 Versus ABC, as well as those who like a zippy plot with a happy ending.

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